The majority of recruiters (75 percent) use some form of applicant tracking system (ATS) or recruiting software. Of those, 94 percent say it improved their hiring process. Using an ATS is transformative. It can make the difference between having a wealth of actionable recruiting information at your fingertips and getting mired in a sea of emails and paper.

An effective ATS not only helps recruiters keep track of candidates in the various stages of recruitment, but it can also boost recruiting productivity and enhance the candidate experience. Deciding which applicant tracking software is right for you isn’t easy, and the number of available options can be dizzying. However, the one that fits your organization’s unique hiring needs is the one that will do the most to elevate your hiring efforts. Here are seven factors to help you decide which ATS is right for you.

Improved Productivity and Efficiency

Applicant tracking software is designed to help you better organize candidate data, so you can do more and save time for the recruiting activities that deliver the most impact. You want to be able to review resumes and select candidates for further assessment, but you also want to easily track interview status and generate reports that show your progress across all open positions. 

It’s ideal to select software that helps you automate and streamline workflows, facilitating a move away from paper and email, double-entry, and manual processes. With the added flexibility an ATS offers, you can get more accomplished in a day. Some tasks an ATS can perform to support improved productivity and efficiency include:

  • Search, sort, and filter candidates by pre-selected criteria and keywords
  • Keep all candidate and open position data in one place via data migrations and imports
  • Streamline existing recruiting workflows and processes (for example, background check ordering through the ATS)
  • Enable data-driven decision-making with standard and customized reports

Better Quality Hires

At the end of the day, recruiting activities are most effective when they result in a pool of high-quality candidates and hires. According to one study, recruiters named quality of hire as the most important metric of recruiting success. An ATS supports that aim by acting as a kind of filter. It can be configured to scan resumes for relevance, showing recruiters only those candidates who best fit the position.

A sophisticated ATS can use keywords and other search criteria to help to weed out candidates with poor fit, allowing you to zoom in on better quality candidates. With an ATS screening candidates for you, you can focus more time on candidates in the interview and pre-hire stage, and also fill your talent pipeline with candidates possessing more relevant skills and experience.

Internal Collaboration 

In any hiring process, there are many players—recruiters, hiring managers, other interviewers on the team, and the candidates themselves. Each of those players must be able to communicate seamlessly in order to keep the recruiting process moving. An ATS supports collaboration between a range of stakeholders in the interview process. It can send automated messages and replies, helping to reduce over-reliance on phone and email (and email and phone “tags”). An ATS can also be designed to allow employees to submit referral candidates for open positions.

With the ATS at the center of recruiting communications, recruiters can give hiring managers and other interviewers select access to specific jobs and candidates within the system. An ATS can also store interviewer comments and “thumbs up” ratings for individual candidates. Every interviewer can see comments, ask questions, and collaborate without having to schedule a conference call or meeting to discuss. Instead of experiencing delays in the interview process due to missing candidate feedback, the ATS allows you to automatically collect, share, and store the feedback.


[INFOGRAPHIC] Key factors to consider when comparing background screening  service providers »

Ease of Customization

Every hiring process is unique in some way, and one size does not fit all when it comes to applicant tracking software. When choosing an ATS, you don’t just want a tool that works well for everybody else. You need one that works for you and your key stakeholders. Every organization relies on an efficient hiring process, but not all have the same policies, priorities, or recruiting practices. Just as some organizations may need an ATS that can be embedded into an existing careers site, others expect their ATS to support separate hiring processes across multiple locations.  

The ATS you choose should be customizable to fit with existing recruiting practices, without creating workarounds or extra steps that will only make hiring more cumbersome for everyone involved. For example, if you’re hiring healthcare talent, you may benefit from an ATS that provides room for applicants to list and attach their medical credentials, rather than one that only allows applicants to attach a resume and cover letter. You might also want the same ATS to generate reports based on customized categories of healthcare positions. 

Compliance Tracking

Whether you’re in a highly-regulated industry, such as financial services or healthcare, or one with far less regulation, you can still benefit from applicant tracking software that helps you stay in compliance with applicable employment laws. In all cases, an ATS should support recruiting practices in compliance with equal employment opportunity laws (EEO), the U.S. Department of Labor, and other federal and state regulations. 

A good example illustrating the role of the ATS in compliant recruiting practices is the application process. An ATS must accept candidate job applications in accordance with state-specific “ban the box” laws and salary history bans, both of which prohibit application questions about criminal and salary history. Also, if your organization does business with the federal government, your ATS must support recruiting in compliance with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) guidelines for job listings and recordkeeping.

Improved Candidate Experience

While talent acquisition staff and hiring managers are the primary users of the ATS, it doesn’t mean the ATS doesn’t have a role to play in enhancing the candidate experience. Candidate experience is more than a buzz-word. Research shows that it also yields better recruiting results. An IBM study found that those who are satisfied with their candidate experience are 38 percent more likely to accept a job offer. 

An ATS improves candidate communication and makes it easier for individuals to express interest in job opportunities. Some of the ways an ATS can support a better candidate experience include:

  • Automated replies and updates to keep candidates informed about the status of their background check and where they stand in the hiring process
  • Embedded branding capabilities that make the ATS an extension of your overall talent acquisition strategy
  • Mobile-friendly access which allows candidates to apply to open positions from any device, and upload their resumes and profiles from other sites like LinkedIn or Indeed.

Full Integration Capability 

While applicant tracking software on its own can automate many recruiting activities, it can do more when integrated with other software and services. Integration with other platforms allows you to better manage candidates at the application, interview, background screening, and onboarding stages of hiring. For example, when your ATS integrates with background screening software, you can generate candidate e-disclosures and authorization forms and connect candidates with paperless drug screening, all without having to re-enter candidate demographic information or generate more paper.

An ATS doesn’t just help you source and evaluate candidates. A well-integrated ATS also facilitates faster hiring and onboarding. Key integrations include:

  • Job posting and social media sites: Post open positions and careers-related social posts directly from the ATS
  • Interview scheduling: Make interview appointments from within the ATS that appear on interviewer calendars, along with resumes and related notes
  • Background screening: Request background checks, view status updates, and store background screening results in the ATS
  • Onboarding: Transition candidates from pre-hire to post-hire activities without having to re-enter candidate details

The Right Applicant Tracking Software for You

The ATS does so much more than collect, sort, and store candidate applications. Your ATS can and should be a dynamic, cloud-based tool at the heart of your recruiting function. Deciding which applicant tracking software is right for you depends on many factors. Once you’ve found a tool that helps you deliver better quality hires and a more compliant and well-integrated hiring process, you’ll be well on your way to a more effective recruiting function.

New call-to-action